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Use Facebook Messenger Screen Sharing on Your Phone

By Tracey Dowdy 

Facebook Messenger now allows users to share their screens on iOS and Android mobile devices. You can online shop, browse through photos together, or scroll through social media all within Messenger’s familiar interface.

Any added features help Messenger stand out among the competition. Google Meet,  SkypeZoom, and Microsoft Teams are popular options, but some users are more comfortable connecting via Messenger, a platform most are already familiar with. Now, Messenger’s screen sharing feature lets you instantly share your screen, either in video calls with up to eight people or using the Messenger Rooms feature to chat with up to 50 people. Perhaps best of all, there’s no time limit, unlike Zoom, that cuts you off after 40 minutes unless you opt for the paid version. You can also screen share in Messenger Rooms on your desktop.

As Room creator, you can decide whether to limit the ability to screen share to yourself or make it available to all participants on the call. Messenger’s other fun features include creating a custom backgroundlivestreaming your video chats, and participating in a Watch Party from within the platform. 

To screen-share via Facebook Messenger on your phone: 

  • Open the Messenger app on your iPhone or Android device.
  • Start a video call by selecting one or more of your contacts, then tap the camera icon.
  • Once on the call, swipe up on the toolbar at the bottom (where you find the icons for hanging up or turning your mic off). 
  • From within the expanded menu that pops up, tap Share your screen. 

Now, other participants will be able to see a live view of whatever is on your screen. Your chat interface (the live video being streamed) will migrate to the upper right-hand corner of your phone, so you’ll still be able to see the other chat members while displaying what’s on your phone. 

That’s it. Facebook has made the process pretty straightforward, so even the most technologically challenged among us should find screen sharing within Messenger simple and easy to access. Have fun sharing! 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

 

 

How to use Facebook’s Free New Video Chat Option

By Tracey Dowdy

Never one to let the competition get too far ahead, Facebook has come up with a new video chat alternative to its competitors, Zoom, Skype, Jitsi Meet, and Google Meet. With Messenger Rooms, up to 50 people can chat in a room at once, with no time limit. Participants don’t even need an account to use the room.

Messenger Rooms offers more features than its Facebook Messenger video chat option, allowing up to 50 people on screen with no time limit through either the main Facebook app or through the dedicated Messenger one.

Zoom became especially popular in the early days of self-quarantining, but issues around security leading to Zoom-bombing soon became an issue. Facebook is no stranger to security and privacy problems. Still, in a livestream earlier this month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company has been “very careful.” He tried to “learn the lessons” from issues users have experienced with other video conference tools over the past several months. 

Facebook also owns WhatsApp, with over 700 million accounts participating in voice and video calls every day on both platforms. In a press release in April, Facebook noted that the number of calls has more than doubled in many areas since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Facebook seems to be taking the potential security risks seriously. Messenger Rooms promises these features:

  • Locking: Rooms can be locked or unlocked once a call begins. If a room is closed, no one else can join, except a Group administrator for rooms created through a Group. 
  • Removing a participant: The room creator can remove any unwanted participants. If the room creator removes someone from the call or leaves, the room will lock automatically, and the room creator must unlock the call for others to join. 
  • Leaving: If at any point, users feel unsafe in a room, they can exit. Locking down a room prevents others from entering, not participants from leaving.
  • Reporting: Users can report a room name or submit feedback about a room if they feel it violated Facebook’s Community Standards. However, since Facebook doesn’t record Messenger Room calls, so reports and feedback will not include audio or video from the room.
  • Blocking: You can block someone on Facebook or Messenger who may be bothering you, and they will not be informed. When someone you’ve blocked is logged into Facebook or Messenger, they won’t be able to join a room you’re in, and you won’t be able to join theirs.

Make sure you have the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger mobile apps downloaded from the App Store or the Google Play Store to create a room on your phone. 

  • Open the Messenger app.
  • Tap the People tab at the bottom right of your screen. 
  • Tap Create a Room and select the people you want to join. 
  • To share a room with people who don’t have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups, and Events. 
  • You can join a room from your phone or computer — no need to download anything, according to Facebook.

To create a room on your laptop or desktop, go to your Home Page and to the box at the top where you would usually post. Click on “Create Room” and follow the prompts to name your chat, invite guests, and choose your start time.

Currently available to everyone in the US, Canada, and Mexico, Messenger Rooms is rolling out worldwide over the next week.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Free Video Chat Options While Social Distancing

If you’re like me, your family and friends are spread out over several states and even internationally. But, one of the good things that have come out of our shelter in place or self-quarantining orders is that many of us have a little more time on our hands to reach out and catch up. The descriptions of the options below refer to the free version of each of these platforms. The paid versions offer more features. 

Depending on the purpose of your chat, some platforms are better suited than others. Zoom surged in popularity once everyone started teleworking, but has been plagued with security concerns in recent weeks. Don’t worry – there are plenty of other options for you to choose from. 

My office has been using Jitsi for our team meetings but is a solid option for non-work related chats too. Compatible with Android, Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux systems, you can join a meeting through the Jitsi app or directly from your browser without creating an account – the meeting organizer simply sends a link to the “room” you’ll be meeting in. Users can customize the meeting URL and exchange messages and emojis during the video conference through an integrated chat.

Google Hangouts allows you to video chat with up to 25 people, with up to ten of you visible onscreen at once. It’s arguably the most user-friendly. seamlessly integrates with Google Calendar and Gmail, and doesn’t cap the amount of time you can chat where others set a time limit. Zoom, for example, limits you to 40 minutes if there are three or more people on the call. Google Hangouts has an app on iOS and Android but works just as well on your desktop or laptop. It also  

Your family and friends are likely familiar with Facebook’s Messenger app which we primarily used for sending messages. But it also offers a video chat option, making it a solid choice for those who are on the social media platform all the time anyway and may not be comfortable with creating another account or figuring out a different platform. To start a chat, simply go to Messenger, type the names of your Friends you’d like to chat within the “To:” field, then click on the video camera icon in the top right corner. Facebook will call them, all they have to do is answer the call. 

If you’re an Apple device user, FaceTime that wants to chat with other Apple users, FaceTime is the way to go. If you have an iPhone, iPad or Mac, it operates seamlessly, letting you start a video chat with up to 32 of your contacts (remember, iOS users only) just as you would a phone call or text message. If your Wi-Fi or data connection is weak or you have a poor phone signal, you have the option to do an audio-only call. 

Skype, the granddaddy of them all, is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac, offers video and audio calling, and a messaging feature. Its user-friendly interface supports up to 50 people on the same audio call but the number of video callers depends on what device you’re using.  You can also record, save and share your video calls, and even incorporate live captions and subtitles. 

Houseparty is currently the third most downloaded app on the iOS app store in the United States — behind Zoom and TikTok — and comes top in the United Kingdom. Available on Android, iPadOS (for iPad users) and macOS (for Mac users), the app allows “partygoers” to chat, take quizzes, and play games like “Heads Up,” and “Quick Draw.” Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can add your “friends” via your contacts or by pairing with Facebook or Snapchat. Users can invite up to eight friends to join their a “party” and there is the option to “lock” the party so that only invited guests can join.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

5 Reasons Why You Should Video Chat This Holiday Season

Let’s face it – most people over the age of 25 don’t like to video chat. Either they remember those early Skype experiments, where the call kept getting disconnected, or they just don’t like the idea of appearing on camera without a full night’s sleep and a couple of hours with their very own hair and make-up department.

But video chat has changed. It’s become so reliable and convenient that millions of people are seamlessly switching between regular voice chats and video chats without batting an eyelid. In fact, with short-form video apps like Vine, Keek and Snapchat, the lines between “normal” chat and video chat are already blurred for much of the younger generation.

With the Holiday season already upon us, it’s the perfect time for the rest of us to give video chat another try. Here are a few more reasons why:

Video chat is more personal

There is no better feeling than being up close and personal with loved ones the Holidays – and if you can’t be together in person, video chat is the next best thing. Show grandma how tall the kids are, or let your sister see how great that sweater looks. Sure, you can always chat on the phone but video chat is much more personal.

Video chat is free

Video chat apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, Tango and ooVoo are completely free, and some of them allow multiple parties to join a call for group video chats. If you’re using a mobile device, be sure to use your home Wi-Fi instead of your cellular network – that way it’s not eating into your data allowance either.

You can chat from anywhere

The overwhelming majority of video apps are built or customized for mobile devices, so you are not tied to your computer or laptop. Let your kids take grandpa on a tour of the house or show friends how good the Christmas tree looks. The front-facing cameras on most tablets and smartphones are ideal for video chat; as long as you stay within range of your Wi-Fi or cellular network, you can take your chat anywhere!

Video quality has improved dramatically

Those interrupted calls and fuzzy images are now a thing of the past. Smarter apps, super-fast networks and HD screens have all combined to make the video chat experience seamless and crystal clear. With mobile devices, we no longer have to worry about flaky webcams that only work when they feel like it. And if you’re worried about those Amoled screens showing a little too much of your early morning face, then you can always appoint yourself Director of Video Chat and carefully point the camera elsewhere!

Video chat is fun!

And the final reason to video chat? It’s just more fun! Your kids love video because it allows them to be clever, funny, serious and goofy all at the same time. Take a leaf out of their book this Holiday season: pick up your phone, throw caution to the wind, and join the video chat party!

7 Messaging Apps That Are Replacing SMS

When texting first became popular, most texts were sent via a wireless carrier’s network. This service (also known as SMS) used to be a huge revenue-generator for the carriers, but is now largely bundled with ‘free’ voice or calling plans as the carriers switch their attention to data.

If you are still using SMS to text your family and friends, then rest assured you are not alone. Despite all the chatter about WhatsApp, SnapChat, Messenger and the rest, SMS remains the #1 messaging option for an overwhelming majority of smartphone owners.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. The ability to add multimedia functions, group chats, video calls, and much more is quickly adding to the allure of messaging apps, and it seems only a matter of time before they catch up and even surpass the popularity of SMS.

If you have a teenage son or daughter, it’s almost guaranteed that they are using at least one messaging app. If you are thinking of joining them, here are 7 of the more popular options:

Facebook Messenger

messengerTNUp until now, Facebook included a messaging feature in its social network app, so there was no need for a separate download. However, Facebook has just announced that all future mobile messaging will have to be done through the stand-alone Messenger app. Desktop users will be able to continue to use the built-in messaging app as before.

Messenger includes text, group chat, photo and video sharing options, and even stickers. The good thing about Facebook is that almost everyone is on it, so you won’t have to spend time adding all your contacts.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry


WhatsApp

whatsappTNWith over 500 million active users, WhatsApp is arguably the most popular messaging app in the world – so popular, in fact, that Facebook agreed to pay $19 billion to acquire it! WhatsApp’s strength is its simplicity. Once the app is downloaded, WhatsApp checks your contacts and automatically adds WhatsApp users. You don’t need to send a request to be able to connect through WhatsApp.

WhatsApp supports text messages, group messages, photos and videos, and audio media messages. WhatsApp management has also announced that they are developing a voice option, which will be the equivalent of making a phone call.

Cost: $0.99 per year (first year free)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Skype

skypeTNEstablished as a desktop tool, Skype has made an uneven transition to mobile, disappointing some early adopters and encouraging other messaging services to step up and fill the void. The Skype mobile app supports text messaging, photos and videos, and face-to-face video and voice calls over Wi-Fi or a wireless network. There is also a low-cost voice calling option to mobile devices and landlines.

Cost: Free (with the exception of some calling options)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Google Hangouts

hangoutsTNAlthough Google Hangouts supports an instant text messaging service, its real strength is in multi-person voice and video chats. The video chat option is particularly appealing and supports a number of increasingly sophisticated production options. The messaging app is very basic but it does support photos and GIFs, which can be automatically saved in a Google+ album.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


SnapChat

snapchatTNExtremely popular among tweens and teens, SnapChat started life as an instant photo-sharing service that allowed users to add a text caption. The photos automatically disappeared after a few seconds, leading to (largely unfounded) fears of teen sexting. SnapChat also supports plain text chat and has recently added Stories, which allows users to video chat simply by pressing and holding the screen.

SnapChat’s success has attracted the attention of Facebook but so far SnapChat’s founders have rebuffed all acquisition attempts. Both Facebook (Slingshot) and Instagram (Bolt) have recently introduced SnapChat competitors, although Bolt is not yet available in the U.S.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


LINE

lineTNPopular overseas, LINE supports free voice and video calls as well as regular text messaging, photos and more. Although the app is fee to download, users can spend money on a range of in-app purchases, which include stickers, games and even messages from celebrities. Music and shopping services are expected to follow.

Cost: Free with some optional in-app purchases
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Kik

kikTNWith the decline of BlackBerry (and the beloved BBM), there was an obvious need for a smart and flexible cross-platform messaging tool. Enter Kik, a rapidly-evolving messaging service that now has over 100 million users. With Kik you can exchange text messages, videos, images, emoticons, and more, and features like Kik Cards allow for a surprising level of customization.

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone